New Year’s Eve and no plans. How Disappointing. Three Days off work and nothing to do. That’s not how we roll. So what did we do? We got a map and a pin! Literally. The other half was working until 5pm on New Years Eve, so we couldn’t go too far. So we got a map of the surrounding area and dropped a pin. It landed near Buxton, Derbyshire. We checked and it was within the travel time limits. And so the planning began. Even we (as usual) had left everything till the last minute, we managed to get some fairly cheap accommodation and so were good to go.
Luckily the other half got out of work early on New Year’s Eve, so we got to Buxton earlier than we originally planned. Booking late had landed us in the Alison Park Hotel (which we nearly drove past). We managed to squeeze in the tiny carpark for the size of the hotel and got to our room. We actually had two rooms for the price of one, one double which was attached to a single that led to the ensuite, bizarre set up! Did they think we were going to have an argument?
After showers and getting ready we headed out to explore Buxton and find some food before the celebrations commenced. I’d found a place to eat in the Rough Guide called ‘Nat’s Kitchen’ which sounded good, and since it was named after me we wanted to give it a try. We headed to the address and it was no longer there. A restaurant called ‘No. 13’ was in its place. We tried to get in here, but it was fully booked, no surprises there, with it being New Years Eve. So we headed back to the square and went into a pub called ‘Kings Head’ to rethink. The Kings Head was your usual cheap, good start to the night pub. We asked the barmaid here where is good to go and she advised us to head down the hill, so that’s what we did.
The Old Clubhouse
Down the hill we found a pub called the ‘Old Clubhouse’ after entering and having a browse of the menu, we decided to eat here. It was quite busy, for still being early in the evening. Here we tried Fried Pickles, not something I’d recommend, it was just weird. We got a couple of starters to share, Whitebait and Pulled Pork Bites. These were ok, I’ve had better Whitebait though, but they were nice enough. Then for main I had Pork Belly, which is hard to go wrong with. For a fairly cheap meal on New Year’s Eve, it was actually better than I expected, but not something I’d rave about. If you’re looking for a cheapish meal, but don’t want the usual cheap chains, The Old Clubhouse is what you’re looking for.
After eating we went to explore some more. This exploration took us to the ‘Lone Star’ where there was live music. It looked liked it was normally a tapas bar and was quite a quirky little place. Next we moved on to ‘Barbarellas’, which had been recommended by the barmaid in the Kings Head. This bar is pretty big and did cocktails. However, we got a little bored, as it was still early, I’d read about somewhere called ‘The Slopes’ so we decided to try and find this area.
Finding The Slopes
From what I could remember from the map in the guidebook, I thought the slopes wouldn’t be too hard to find. They wouldn’t have been, if I had the map with me and we hadn’t been drinking. So we got completely lost! We had a very decent explore around… Finally we found our way there. The Slopes are basically a hill with statues of Urns. When we found it, we didn’t realise at first, until I spotted the first Urn. So we climbed up, in all honesty, with a name like ‘The Slopes’ I expected a steeper, higher hill. It’s an easy climb, but does reward you with a good view.
New Year In Buxton
After a bit more of a walk round, we came to the realisation that we were nearing midnight. So we headed back to Barbarellas for the New Year countdown. It was a great atmosphere in here for the countdown – everyone was excited and happy.
After wishing each other a ‘Happy New Year’ and a drink or two, we decided to leave Barbarellas and maybe head back to the hotel, see what happens. What happened was that we got distracted by a bar that we couldn’t get in earlier as it was full. Now we could get in, so we had to give it a try. This bar was called ‘Monk’ and turned out to be a great cocktail bar.
The Monk didn’t serve your normal cocktails, they were exciting and different. Here I tried ‘Rabbit’s Foot’, which actually tasted just as I would expect a rabbit’s foot to taste like… It had stout in it, so was not really for me. After browsing through the menu (which was like a very old book, great effect), I tried a ‘Gingerbread’, which was much nicer and was just like drinking gingerbread dough.
Once again, with no idea what the time was, we decided it was time to head back. We had almost got back when we came across the ‘Queen’s Head’ and it sounded like fun in there, so we popped in there for our last one…
Upon waking up, I quickly discovered that I had lost my phone during the New Year festivities. So after a difficult to stomach breakfast (and that’s not a negative comment about the food), we retraced our steps to see if it had been picked up. Unfortunately, not everywhere we’d been was open at this time. So we went back to the hotel to think of something to do on New Years Day. We headed back through the Pavilion Gardens, which you could easily get lost in (but not in a bad way). There were lots of intersecting paths, ponds and there was also a weird tree sculpture. I have no idea what the sculpture is meant to be/meant to represent. If anyone knows, please leave a comment for me, I’d love to know.
Back at the hotel, we picked up a few leaflets and had a look at what was nearby. Just a short walk was ‘Poole’s Cavern’ and if the cavern itself was shut, there were walks around it. So we headed there. Poole’s Cavern, it turned out, was shut on New Year’s Day, but we were able to access the walks. So we climbed up to Solomon’s Temple.
It was a good walk, though muddier than expected. We really should’ve changed into our walking gear! There was a lot of information on the way up about what the area was used for in the past and the people that worked there. At the top of the hill (it was a much bigger hill than the Slopes) there was Solomon’s Temple and a great view. We found a shortcut on the way back, it was a steeper slope, so there was some slipping and sliding, but luckily no falls!
Back Into Buxton
By this time it was mid afternoon, so we decided to head back to town and have another search for the lost phone. This time we found it! It had been handed in at a pub, as I had weirdly left it in the flower bed outside… By this time we realised we were peckish, so we decided to head further into town, see what was open and have some lunch.
Heading down the hill past the King’s Head, we had the realisation that the Slopes were just to our right – essentially Buxton is built around the Slopes! We took a shortcut over the Slopes to the main shopping street. Down a side street here we came across an antique shop and tearooms where we stopped for lunch. There wasn’t much choice with it being New Year’s Day, but at least it was open and wasn’t a chain. So Pie and Peas later, feeling refreshed, we went out to enjoy the sunshine.
A Short Stroll
We went back to the Pavilion Gardens, as neither of us wanted to go further afield than Buxton and there was only a few hours of daylight left anyway. This time we spent longer just enjoying being out, watching the ducks, trying to figure out the tree sculpture thing (I have still have no idea). Then we went to find St Ann’s Well, as from this fountain you can drink Buxton Spring Water for free. The fountain is on the north side of the Slopes near the Pump Room. I expected a grander fountain, we almost missed it! You really do have to look out for it.
By the time we got back to the Alison Park Hotel, it was early evening, so after getting changed we went for some food. We decided to try ‘No. 13’ as it did look nice. No. 13 had a very simple menu, but everything on it sounded good. We shared a garlic pizza bread, which was pretty much a meal in itself! Then I tried a Lemon and Herb Risotto, which I was a little disappointed by as it was very bland. We also ordered some Pigs in Blankets to share, which got forgotten about until we were halfway through the main. But they were a good late addition!
Not really being in the mood for another mad night, we headed back for a quiet one with a bottle of wine and a film.
The next morning we both managed to enjoy the breakfast. The usual English fare, but that’s always good. Over breakfast we planned our day, as we did not want to go straight home. It was decided that we would go to Bakewell (as my mum raves about it) then maybe Peak Cavern to see the ‘Devil’s Arse’.
Bakewell is a very pretty village, but we both weren’t in the mood for shopping. We thought about doing the four-mile loop along the river, but decided the caverns would be more exciting. We stayed for a couple of hours though, just wandering around and saw some interesting things. There was a closed gate that led down to the river, with an overgrown through way, the gate had a sign saying ‘No Parking’, I think if you parked down there you’d never get out!
By the river there were tens of people stood next to the ‘Don’t feed the ducks’ sign (which gave several environmental reasons why not to feed the ducks) and what were they doing? You guessed it, feeding the ducks. I’m unsure if these people are illiterate or just plain stupid. They made me laugh a despairing laugh though…
After noticing a Church on top of a hill, we thought there may be a great view up there, so up we went. It’s not worth it. The view really isn’t what you expect, not great at all. And the walk wasn’t exactly pretty either.
Caverns And Castleton
So it was back to the car and onward! Peak Cavern is in Castleton. I just wanted to see the Devil’s Arse, who wouldn’t? I love finding out reasons behind local names like that. From the carpark it’s about 5-10 minute walk to the entrance. You follow the signs, past some pretty house by the river (which was worryingly high) and through the start of the gorge.
At the entrance to the cavern we were told that only ⅓ of the cavern was accessible, due to the recent heavy rains areas were flooded, a bit of an anticlimax. I’m just glad the guy at the ticket desk was honest and told us this before we paid. Since we’re only a couple of hours away, we decided to leave the cavern for another time, so another decision was to be made, should we go to Treak Cliff Cavern, a little further up the road, or the Castle on top of the hill. It was decided not to risk the other cavern but to try the castle. So we retraced our steps toward the carpark until we came across the sign for ‘Peveril Castle’.
The Castle On The Hill
A small hill climb later we reached the entrance Peveril Castle, which is under the care of the English Heritage. After a quick look around the very small shop we paid the fee, stroked the cat (there was a cat sat on the desk that would not be happy if you went in without giving him a stroke) and up the stairs we went.
At the top of the stairs were some information boards about the castle and castle life. After reading these we went outside. Up another slope and we were at the Peveril Castle ruins. You have to use your imagination on the ruins as they really are ruins. But there is a great view and some good information boards. It doesn’t take long to walk around the ruins, but it would be a really nice spot on a good day. Unfortunately the keep was closed when we went, so we missed a tiny part.
Learning About Castleton
Once we had explored Peveril Castle we went down into the town of Castleton. We walked around a couple of shops and noticed they were focused on ‘Blue John Stone’ and most had loads of jewellery with this stone for sale. We then came across the visitor centre and went in for a look. Inside there is a very small museum part that you can go in (they just ask for a donation to keep it running) that tells you all about the town of Castleton. Here we learnt about local area, local festivals and Blue John Stone. An interesting (and warm) way to spend an hour or so.
It was now time to start thinking about heading off home, but first we decided to go for a warm drink. We came across the ‘Rose Cottage Cafe’, which actually used to have a through road going through it – you can read all about this interesting cottage on a plaque by the door. Here I had a hot chocolate and Bakewell tart. The Bakewell tart was different to what we get at home, which is just a couple of hours away. Both the hot chocolate and tart were really good and if you’re in Castleton I’d recommend going in for a hot drink and cake. The cafe itself is pretty too and much larger than I expected. Although, there is one downside to the cafe – it is a trek to the toilets.
After finishing our cake and tea, it was time to head home. We’d had a great couple of days exploring the Peak District, somewhere that is just a hours away.
Our New Year in Buxton made me realise that the Peak District has a lot to explore and do and is practically on my doorstep. Buxton is a good starting point and base if you’re coming from further afield though. There are many pretty little towns and villages, caves and hills left to explore here. And I definitely have to go back and see the Devil’s Arse.